The results on Missouri's 2009 football recruiting class are in, and though many publications don't have the Tigers's class ranked among the elite, head coach Gary Pinkel couldn't care less.
"I believe in how we evaluate." said Pinkel. "We spend a lot of time with our evaluation system. It's a system a lot different than what a lot of people do. I don't know whether we rank in fifth in the nation or 80th in the nation. That really means nothing to me. I believe in how we evaluate kids and how we recruit, and I would suggest that it's working."
Who can argue with Pinkel? It seems like almost every year he finds a player tabbed as a one, two, or three star recruit who turns out to be a fantastic college football player. Brad Smith wasn't the most highly recruited guy coming out of high school, as his choices were pretty much Toledo or Mizzou. We all know how that turned out. Sean Weatherspoon was a two-star recruit and William Moore was virtually unknown coming out of high school. So, how does he do it?
"In recruiting we work very, very hard at our evaluation, how we recruit, and what we do." said Pinkel. "I was at a national convention and a couple coaches from Texas said to me that we ask more about players, were more thorough, than any coaches that they've seen and any program that they've seen."
Of course, there's more to a recruiting class than its sheer star power.
"I think you always look for balance, you always look to hit your positions." said Pinkel. "I felt we did in every area. I felt real good about that. I think that's important."
The position breakdown for Mizzou's 25-man class goes something like this: four LBs, five DBs, four OL, four DL, two QBs, three WRs, one RB, and two TEs.
While the highest rated player in Mizzou's 09' haul, Sheldon Richardson, was listed as a tight end on Missouri's signing day press release, it's still uncertain where he'll play when practice starts. Throughout the recruiting process, Richardson's been listed as a guard, tight end, defensive end, and defensive tackle.
"First of all, we got him, and he's from the state of Missouri." said Pinkel. "I think he's a tremendous athlete. I have four assistant coaches to fight over him, to have him play at a number of places. Certainly, he's such a great young guy, and we're certainly thrilled that he's a Missouri Tiger."
Pinkel's policy on players who have the ability to play a number of positions has always been they can choose where they want to start out. Some believe him, others don't.
"I shouldn't have to fight it because there's no debate." said Pinkel. "You look at our program, we've never made a player play where he didn't want to play. Now, if Sheldon wanted to play quarterback then I'd try to talk him out of it."
Richardson, like nine other members of the 09' class, is a native Missourian. And though many like to talk about Mizzou's dependence on the state of Texas for high school talent, Pinkel refused to downplay the importance of getting the local kids.
"The state of Missouri is our lifeblood, and we made a bunch of progress there and we've earned a lot of respect with high school coaches in the state" said Pinkel. "Texas is a state that has huge numbers of athletes. If you evaluate well, you can find high-level athletes all over the state because of the numbers."
Another highly publicizes in-state signee is quarterback Blaine Dalton, formerly of Blue Springs South High School. He and fellow freshman QB Ashton Glaser are already enrolled in classes at Mizzou, something Pinkel fully supports.
"With Blaine Gabbert here as a freshman a year ago, the experiences that he had and all the practicing he got the entire season, and having both those young players come in here being able to compete is really, really important" said Pinkel. "Let the competitions begin."
Four other signees enrolled early. Junior linebacker Josh Tatum, Junior safety Jarrell Harrison, freshman linebacker Andrew Wilson and freshman tight end Alex Snaders are also already on the ground in Columbia to compete for playing time in 09.